Whether you’re ready for them or not, the holidays are here. Thanksgiving is this week, and the winter holidays will follow soon after. This year is going to look different for everyone, regardless of how you celebrate. But having your first sober Thanksgiving during a pandemic is certainly one for the books.
With so much change happening right now, this could work in your favor. Friends and family will understand if you choose to stay home and do your own thing. This can also help break old habits that may threaten your sobriety (i.e., binge drinking). On the other hand, you may be going through so much change, a normal Turkey Day with the family might be a welcome invitation.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, be sure to put your alcohol recovery in Denver first. Below we share our 10 best tips for surviving Thanksgiving 2020. (These tips apply to both virtual and in-person gatherings.)
1. Practice Good Self-Care
Self-care is not selfish. It’s the best way to ensure a healthy, happy relationship with yourself. Practicing self-care also guarantees that your needs are met. It’s much easier to make smart decisions when you feel nourished, well-rested and confident.
Going into the holidays, be sure to give your body what it needs: nutritious food, restorative sleep, regular exercise and daily meditation. If you need to, use the HALT recovery tool. HALT is an acronym for Hunger, Anger, Lonely and Tired. If any of these things are amiss, address them right away. Left unchecked, they can sabotage your recovery.
2. Remember What Thanksgiving is About
Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for the things you have. Chances are, your priorities have changed after outpatient rehab in Denver and the pandemic. Things like having a job, eating at your favorite restaurant or getting a haircut have a new meaning to them.
Keep a healthy perspective on Thanksgiving and what this day is about. If you have to, write in a journal or reflect during meditation. What has sobriety brought to your life? What strengths are you thankful for? Looking back at your growth, you’ll see how far you’ve come.
3. Start New Traditions
Often when people get sober, they have to start new traditions. This could mean celebrating with a different group of people or hosting the holiday yourself. Because things are different this year, it’s a good time to establish new traditions. Maybe you can host a virtual Friendsgiving with your sober friends or donate time to a charitable cause.
4. Avoid Triggers
Your alcohol recovery in Denver must come before everything else. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so don’t let anyone spoil this for you. Even virtual celebrations can be stressful, so avoid people, places and situations that you know will be triggering.
For example, if you know that your friends’ Thanksgiving will have flowing alcohol, politely decline the invitation. If you know that Aunt Judy will irk you with her insensitive comments, sit away from her. It helps to have an exit strategy in case things get uncomfortable.
5. Host Your Own Turkey Day
Whether you plan on attending a small in-person gathering or a virtual dinner, consider hosting the event yourself. This gives you more control over the situation, who’s invited and what’s served. Plus, holiday hosts have plenty to do to keep them busy, which can help you avoid awkward or unpleasant conversations.
6. Bring Your Own Drinks
If you do plan on going somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner, bring along your favorite non-alcoholic drinks. You’ll have something fun to sip on, and this will stop people from asking where your drink is (another trigger!). Check out these 20 non-alcoholic festive drinks that are perfect for any winter celebration.
7. Accept that Thanksgiving Will Look Different
Change is hard, but it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. Things are going to look different from this point forward, and that’s okay. The holidays have a tendency to make us feel nostalgic, but you might also be conveniently forgetting the rest.
Now that you are sober, your holiday celebrations may look and feel abnormal. But you have so much to look forward to! You’ll be in control of your actions. You won’t have to deal with hangovers or regret. And you can create lifelong memories with the people that matter most.
8. Play the Tape Forward
If you are feeling triggered, play the tape forward. That spiked eggnog might look good, but think back to past years when you overdid your drinking. Did you do or say things you regret? Did you create tension in the family? Perhaps you don’t even remember the holidays! Once you play the tape forward and envision what could happen, it’s much easier to say no.
9. Follow Your Aftercare Plan
Because the holidays do bring up old memories, it’s important to be diligent with your recovery. Hit an extra meeting if you have to. Your fellow 12-step members may have some suggestions on how to make family interactions more pleasant and comfortable. Also follow the other aspects of your aftercare plan, such as seeing your therapist, exercising regularly and managing stress levels.
10. Be of Service to Others
As you build your new holiday traditions, find ways to be of service to people. Whether it’s helping the host with their Thanksgiving festivities, donating your time to a soup kitchen or keeping the kids busy with games and stories, you’ll feel good giving back to others. When you were actively using, you weren’t able to do this and now you can. And this, my friend, is what it’s all about.
Be Smart. Be Safe. Enjoy Your Sober Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving may seem like a big drinking holiday, but it’s not this way for everyone. To protect your sobriety and keep yourself safe, we recommend following your aftercare plan, following the CDC’s recommendations for holiday celebrations and attending your 12-step meetings. This will give you the foundation you need to have a healthy, happy and sober Thanksgiving. If you are in need of additional support, don’t hesitate to contact Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado.